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Tremendously exaggerating the number of Americans who lack access to health insurance, CBS on Wednesday night trumpeted the cause of an AFL-CIO member who denounced the United States for not providing health insurance coverage for his wife and endorsed the John Edwards plan for universal health care. ...

Skvara complained that when the steel company he had worked for went bankrupt he lost his promised lifetime health insurance. Not surprisingly, neither Miller nor Matthews raised Skvara's lack of personal responsibility in planning ahead for his own future when he worked in a declining industry, burdened by high health care costs, that many predicted long ago would go out of business.

I really don't know what to say.

UPDATE: In case you haven't seen Skvara -- supporting himself on crutches and holding back tears -- asking his question during Tuesday night's Dem debate, here's the video:

UPDATE 2: Here's some info on the Skvaras' circumstances, from the Chicago Tribune:

Stephen Skvara, 59, an electrical repairman...retired in 2000 after an auto accident left him with disabling hip and knee injuries. An active volunteer in his community and union, the United Steelworkers rep worked 34 years at LTV's Indiana Harbor Works in East Chicago. ...

Despite chronic health problems he headed into retirement never anticipating financial hardship. Then came two blows that drained his savings and dramatically altered his family's lifestyle.

First, his retirement stipends were cut by one-third, to $12,000 annually, when bankrupt LTV shifted its obligations to the federal agency that guarantees pensions. Then he lost the employer-paid insurance that covered most of his medical costs, including $6,000 worth of prescription drugs a year.

Because of his disability he qualified for Medicare and managed to buy a supplemental policy for $300 a month. Yet even with help from a union and industry trust fund that defrays his drug costs, he spends about $5,000 annually on health care--a huge bite from his reduced pension.

"We had the Cadillac of insurance before," he said. "Now I'm driving a Chevy, and the wife doesn't even have a Chevy. We keep sweating it out, hoping nothing happens. That weighs constantly on my mind."

Sandra Skvara went back to work as a substitute teacher, but her public school job offers no health insurance. Though she is prone to depression, treatment is not an option, she said. And she goes without screenings such as pap smears and mammograms.

The couple trims heating costs by dialing back their thermostat. They have stopped eating out and given up any thoughts about replacing Stephen Skvara's 20-year-old Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra.

"Trips are out of the question," said Stephen Skvara.

He keeps busy counseling other retirees on their health-care options at the local union hall, where many are convinced from bitter experience that the nation's employer-paid system is irrevocably broken and needs to be overhauled.

Originally posted to MaximusNYC on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 08:54 PM PDT.

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